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Prep for the Westminster Kennel Club show by digging into the dog business

dog show

By Flickr user Kjunstorm

Now that one major TV-watching spectacle is over for 2012 –  the Super Bowl – there’s only a week left until armchair experts will settle in front of the tube to call out critiques and accolades as they root for their favorite contenders in the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

About 3.5 million viewers, according to this Media Life article, will tune in to the USA Network Monday night to root for their favorite Yorkie, Dandy Dinmont, Portuguese water dog or plain old beagle in the event which the WKC says in this fact sheet has been held since 1877.  (note the TV schedule on the WKC site, some segments will be aired on CNBC). The show usually permeates pop culture for a day or so, with winners appearing on morning shows and wire services covering the highs and the lows, like when one of last year’s awardees bolted her cage and went running down an airport runway, never to be seen again.

Why not tag along and give readers a look at business angles from your local pet breeding and show scene?  It’s a relatable topic and one that is made for cute centerpiece art and fun multimedia elements.

Dog breeding is a touchy topic at the best of times, and it may be tough to write about the industry without addressing the controversy.  But you certainly can show legitimate breeders’ business model — what costs go into producing a healthy litter, from medical care to food and shelter to advertising?   What sort of profit margins exist and how does area competition affect the price of ‘hot’ breeds.  What happens to imperfect dogs that don’t fetch top dollar or can’t meet the specs to get official papers?

If breeding is regulated in your state – only 35 do so – you can get the statute at this interactive map provided by Michigan State University’s law school; reading the laws — which in some cases also pertain to pet stores, pounds and kennels, other business angles — will provide a number of story ideas and question fodder for your breeder interviews.  The Michigan State animal law portal also offers a search feature; you can look up cases by state involving pet breeding and puppy mills among other issues.

And it’s worth noting, though not strictly a business angle, that according to the law site, several states are considering animal abuser registries similar to exisitng sex offender registries, to track those convicted of cruelty.  That’s a tip for your metro or state reporter; be worth talking with local legislators and animal welfare societies about the chances of such a law in your district.

A companion piece to the business-of-breeding article would be personal finance caveats for prospective buyers — how to shop for a desired breed, what to look out for, what to expect in terms of annual care and feeding costs, options for pet care while on vacation and the pros and cons of pet insurance.

Or you could focus more closely on the dog show industry.  Again, the personal finance angle has a lot of possibilities; this Yahoo! Contributor Network posts offers a good rundown on the cost of campaigning an animal; you could do a more colorful and local version by talking with various dog owners, handlers and show officials.  Find area participants through local kennel clubs; here’s a nationwide directory of some 500 affiliates.

Don’t forget about the careers angle; according to Modern Dog, top handlers can earn six-figure annual incomes trotting Rex and Rhoda around the ring.   And of course, equipment suppliers, show promotors, advertising sponsors and other related businesses all are fair game for interesting nuggets of business news.

Finally, what effect does the dog show circuit have on area expo centers, hotels and other venues?  I was shocked last year when the manager of one of Michigan’s largest convention venues told me that a dog show was his bread-and-butter event.  Who knew?  And he said trade from dog show participants and spectators was also an important source of revenue for the area’s motel operators and restaurants.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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